A post at “The Savage Science” is stirring up quite a buzz. Titled “The UFC Shows Contempt For Their Most Loyal Fans”, the post claims that the UFC has duped fans into purchasing tickets for UFC 98, even though they knew Mir was already out of the show because of knee surgery.
Currently, the Zuffa ‘party line’ is that they hadn’t talked to Mir until Saturday morning and once they learned about the knee injury they quickly postponed the Lesnar fight until July and added a Rashad Evans title defense to UFC 98. The idea that one of the main event fighters in the highest profile MMA bout of the next few months could injure his knee and get surgery without anyone in the UFC’s management knowing about it is comical. Mir wouldn’t have done the surgery without the acquiescence of Zuffa brass or, at the very least, without informing them about it. Furthermore, Mir’s absence from the WEC show indicates that Zuffa was very much aware of his knee injury and the surgery.
It’s pretty obvious why the UFC wanted to keep the public in the dark about the Mir injury for as long as possible: it’s a lot easier to sell tickets to an event with a Brock Lesnar/Frank Mir main event than it is for a main event of Matt Serra/Matt Hughes or Rashad Evans/TBA. Lesnar’s arguably the most popular fighter in the UFC right now in terms of putting butts in the seats and selling PPVs. Chuck Liddell is the only other UFC fighter that comes close. The 2008 UFC events featuring Lesnar were the #2 and #5 highest grossing PPV events in North America. The Lesnar/Couture PPV was the only event other than the Oscar De La Hoya/Manny Pacquaio event to exceed 1,000,000 buys.
Which brings me to my questions about the column. The post mentions PPV buys for Lesnar, but are those relevant to the discussion of ticket sales? I think if the UFC comes to your town you are going or your not. Does the card really matter?
Let’s assume though that the columnist is right and people buy tickets based on the card and not necessarily the event. What would the difference in ticket sales be from Lesnar/Mir to say, Evans/Machida? 500? 1000? 2000? Isn’t that chump change for the UFC? Or if it was Evans/Rampage, would there even be a drop-off in sales?
I love a good conspiracy theory. And it’s entirely possible that the UFC bungled the situation and maybe communication was not as it should have been. But I just don’t see the major benefit for the UFC here in duping their fans.